The Real Opportunity with Customer Reviews Online
By Ashish Gambhir Co-founder , newBrandAnalytics | August 28, 2011
Chances are you're swimming in the reams and reams of customer feedback data you have amassed. Adding to the data set is the hospitality industry's newfound recognition of the importance of social media and online customer feedback. But, few companies have figured out how to systematically analyze information shared through social media channels, distill true guests insight, and determine the optimal actions based on this feedback.
Not too long ago, if you stayed in a hotel that did not meet your expectations you may have reported your disappointment on the guest feedback card located in your room. Perhaps you even filled out the post-stay survey. And chances are, you cautioned a few of your friends to stay somewhere else.
Now, fast forward a few years and consider the impact of handheld devices, increased communication platforms online, and, of course, social media. They have radically transformed the way guests voice their opinions about your hotel. Each channel and medium has lowered the "hurdle" to provide feedback. Instead of finding a comment card and still caring enough to fill out the survey, customers can instantly share their opinion with the world with ease.
In fact, hospitality, perhaps more than any other industry, has been transformed by social media. In a recent survey analyzing consumer behavior, Travelzoo found that an overwhelming 81% of travelers turned to hotel review sites to help with their decision-making. Half of those polled said online reviews from previous guests are the most influential. TripAdvisor puts that number even higher - stating recently that 87% of travelers read reviews when planning their next trip.
The rapid growth, tremendous reach, and unbelievable influence of social media feedback are undeniable. While feedback volume from traditional sources (e.g., customer surveys) continues to decline - response rates from these channels has fallen from 50% in 2007 to 28% in 2011 - mentions per brand, region, and even store (or product) on social feedback channels are increasing exponentially. Hotels that capture what guests are saying online, analyze the feedback, and put all of the social media activity to work in a productive way will gain a distinct competitive advantage. As social media has quickly evolved into the most important source of guest feedback, it is critical for hotels to be more customer-focused and socially savvy. Rest assured mining online customer feedback is not just a flavor-of-the-month program; it is a business imperative. When done intelligently, gathering guest feedback and analyzing it provides the level of actionable insight that can drive operational and marketing strategy.
Gleaning and translating the rich information embedded in online customer mentions equips brands with the unfiltered, real-time, voice-of-the-customer insight they need to enhance customer satisfaction and earn loyalty. In some ways, the web has turned every customer into a "mystery shopper," focus group participant, or any other source of guest satisfaction traditionally used. But instead of getting a few dated insights as a part of the analysis, you receive thousands, in real time, and all unsolicited.